MUJI Lulls You to Sleep With Its Minimalistic New App

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MUJI, Japan’s super successful minimalistic “brandless-brand” has recently released a new app, MUJI to Sleep. It boasts a series of natural sounds to help induce a sound slumber, anytime, anywhere. The app is aesthetically awesome, free, boasts a tight design, and last but certainly not least, aids in perpetuating MUJI’s brand values. Other brands take note: this is how you do digital.

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The beginnings of MUJI date back to the early 1980’s, when it served as a generic supermarket brand. Since then the company has grown into a well-respected global name, encompassing a huge variety of goods, everything from housewares to fashion. “Muji” is short for “Mujirushi Ryohin” or “brandless quality goods.”

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If you’re familiar with MUJI then you can see the irony in this; MUJI’s “brandless” has become quite the well-known brand. In recent years they’ve expanded out of Asia and into European and North American markets, having seduced design-centric crowds, their wares even sold in MoMA. MUJI to Sleep seeks to continue the brand’s successful trend of function meets natural simplicity.

 

In an ever-increasing digital world, it’s hard to keep electronics out of the bed, even when we know we’re not supposed to. But MUJI’s sleep app defies this logic, using the sounds of nature on your smartphone or tablet to make drifting off easier. It’s a very niche app, thus the interface and design is refreshingly simple and straightforward. You swipe through six calming sounds of nature: seaside waves, tweeting birds, kindling fire, a stream, forest, and waterfall.

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Every sound was recorded on-location, in Japan, using head-shaped binaural microphones to closely duplicate the experience of actually being within the setting. This technique creates an audio frequency gap between the left and right ear that syncs with the user’s brainwave cycle to encourage sleep. Each sound can be set to a timer of 30, 60, or 90 minutes.

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This app couldn’t fit any better within the MUJI family. The brand has risen to popularity precisely because of its refined products and tidy stores, which ultimately offer a bastion of calm. MUJI to Sleep reinforces this association with its minimalistic design and simple, yet functional use. The app is clearly a brand-builder, but doubles as a product-seller too.

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Accompanying MUJI to Sleep is a fantastic microsite that demonstrates the app’s use when paired with one of the company’s most popular products, the Well-Fitted Neck Cushion. The app appears to have been created to supplement the cushion’s effectiveness (and that of other other MUJI products too). The two compliment each other so well that you feel like you can’t own one without the other, effectively creating need and consequently moving product off the shelves.

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This isn’t MUJI’s first foray into the digital; the company has successfully released other apps that work congruent to their physical offerings. It’s an effective means of digital advertising and marketing—I don’t feel like I’m being worked over by the brand as they’re offering me functional experiences to enhance my living.

“MUJI to Sleep” is available now for both iOS and Android devices. Sweet dreams and happy snoozing.

Nick Partyka

August 25, 2014 / By

What Art Historians and Curators Can Learn From Scientists and Engineers

Jan van Eyck

Jim Cuno, the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, has an interesting article in The Daily Dot where he describes a change he’d like to see in art historians, curators, and professors. It’s a trait that he sees working well in fields like science and engineering. It’s the simple act of collaboration.

The history of art as practiced in museums and the academy is sluggish in its embrace of the new technology. Of course we have technology in our galleries and classrooms and information on the Web; of course we are exploiting social media to reach and grow our audiences, by tweeting about our books, our articles, including links to our career accomplishments on Facebook and chatting with our students online.

But we aren’t conducting art historical research differently. We aren’t working collaboratively and experimentally. As art historians we are still, for the most part, solo practitioners working alone in our studies and publishing in print and online as single authors and only when the work is fully baked. We are still proprietary when it comes to our knowledge. We want sole credit for what we write.

He cites the open source Closer to Van Eyck project as a good example for this thinking. Create a ton of data around a piece of art and share it to the masses.

We should also be more open to open sourcing our projects. The recent Ghent Altarpiece Web application, Closer to Van Eyck (supported by the Getty Foundation) is a case in point. The Closer to Van Eyck project documents the masterpiece in incredible detail. Each centimeter of the multi-paneled, 15th-century altarpiece was examined and photographed at extremely high resolution in both regular and infrared light. The photographs were then digitally stitched together to create large, detailed images that allow for study of the painting at unprecedented microscopic levels, with access to extreme details, macrophotography, infrared, infrared reflectography and x-radiography of the panels. The Web application contains 100 billion pixels and the images and metadata are available free of charge as “raw” data to be used by any and all researchers, amateur as well as professional.

It would be great to see more resources like this come online, and not just in the field of paintings. It makes me think of the robot that’s wandering around the Tate at night, that anyone on the planet can control. Imagine if through that experience you could get 100x the data and learn about each of the pieces in detail. There’s a lot of potential there, especially if people start working together.

Bobby Solomon

August 20, 2014 / By

The Secret Hack That Lets You Find Out What Your Uber Passenger Rating Is

The Secret Way of Finding Out Your Uber Score

The world of transportation has been fundamentally changed by start-up ride share service Uber. One feature that differentiates Uber from the traditional taxi experience is their rating system, which allows the passenger to rate their driver and vice versa. Is your driver swerving all over the road? You can leave a poor rating and a comment knowing that Uber will take care of it (they even write you an email back). But what about your own rating?

Aaron Landy has found a great hack that tells you what your score is in four easy steps. This should help answer whether or not that night you blacked out and took Uber home may have been more of a mess than you remember. I’m proud to say that after 30+ rides I’ve still got a perfect rating.

Uber Passenger Rating

If you’ve never used Uber before you’re totally missing out. Use the link https://www.uber.com/invite/uberthefoxisblack to get your first ride free (and I get a free ride in return).

Bobby Solomon

July 28, 2014 / By

Copenhagen by Vifa: A Bluetooth Speaker With A Warm, Nordic Design

Copenhagen Speaker by Vifa

The world of bluetooth music accessories continues to expand, with stand-outs like Jambox and Nixon to up-and-comers like Lowdi. Entering from a design minded angle is the Copenhagen speaker from Vifa, pairing high-tech know-how with classic Nordic design.

The speaker was designed by Henrik Mathiassen in cooperation with Vifa to those who “values exclusive design just as much as authentic sound.” Each Copenhagen also features a special-woven textile by Kvadrat that lines the front which makes them feel warmer and more human. The combination of fabric and aluminum definitely sets it apart from other speakers like it.

No word on a release date yet but hopefully we see them out in the wild soon.

Copenhagen Speaker by Vifa

Copenhagen Speaker by Vifa

Copenhagen Speaker by Vifa

Copenhagen Speaker by Vifa

Bobby Solomon

July 16, 2014 / By

Withings Activité: The First Smart Looking Smart Watch

Withings Activité Is A Smart Looking Watch Smartwatch

For the time being, “smart watches” aren’t a smart bet. So far most companies are producing mobile phones that fit on your wrist, not truly thinking of what the utility of a wrist mounted computing device should be used for. Google’s Android Wear watches seem to be the first coherent thought in this brave new world, but unfortunately it’s focused on being a cool gadget for the tech-savvy first while putting the everyday people market second.

Withings Activité Watch

That’s where Withings and their new Activité watch come in. At first glance what do you see? A watch. A beautiful watch designed in Paris and made in Switzerland out of stainless steel and unbreakable sapphire glass. This is first and foremost a beautifully designed object that will appeal to folks who still wear watches. Looks are deceiving though as it features a variety of helpful, tech focused features like monitoring distance (walking, running, or swimming), calories burned, and quantity and quality of sleep, all of which will sync with Withing’s existing Health Mate app.

This to me feels like the natural progression of smart watches. Be sure that they appeal to a market of people that still wear watches, a number which I’m sure is dwindling, and give them more functionality with less fuss. The less fuss? The battery in the watch will last a year, not the nightly charging that Google’s watches require. I suppose time will tell how these devices evolve.

Withings Activité Is A Smart Looking Watch Smartwatch

Bobby Solomon

July 2, 2014 / By

The Greyhours “Essential” Watch

Greyhound Essential Watch

I’ve been on a minimally designed watch kick lately (just got this) so when I saw Greyhours’ newest watch I immediately wanted it. Simply called Essential, the slimmed down watch comes in a white and black versions, each only uses a subtle bit of color for the second and day hands.

When a 40 mm stainless steel case takes shelter under an ion plated silver coating with the dial dressed in white, a subtle seduction is created by the power of the design. The task of powering this beauty falls to an IsaSwiss quartz movement, driving silver hour/minute hands over black markers and a red seconds hand and date display.

If you’re not in the market for a new watch you should check out their top notch product photography, like the image above.

Bobby Solomon

June 2, 2014 / By

CCTV Camera’s become Animals Thanks to Designer Eleonora Trevisanutto

Eleanor Trevisanutto - 3 Cricket

Eleanor Trevisanutto - 1 Tropical

It’s like George Orwell’s Animal Farm meets 1984 with these CCTV camera cases by Italian designer Eleonora Trevisanutto. Her creations transform dull security equipment into friendly looking animals and in the process she creates security equipment which feels far less intimidating. It’s a really interesting concept and I must say I quite like Eleonora’s brightly-colored creations.

Continue reading this post…

Philip Kennedy

April 30, 2014 / By

In-Depth and Up Close Process Video of a Watch Being Made

NOMOS Glashütte

German based watchmakers NOMOS Glashütte are known for their high caliber of watchmaking and this video proves it. Aptly titled Look over the watchmakers’ shoulder we get an intimate look at the intricate process that goes into the making of a watch. It’s honestly mind-boggling to think of how confident these makers are at creating something with such small scale. I think it also clearly shows why these watches are so expensive: it takes a lot of work to make something so perfect.

Bobby Solomon

April 29, 2014 / By

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